Making Human Connections in the Age of Automation

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The end of the decade marks a challenging time for marketers as they attempt to envision the next 10 years. At the turn of the 2010s, no one could have envisioned the advanced AI-powered marketing and campaign automation tools that are available today. 

Despite access to smart technology, modern marketers still must balance multiple factors to create business value for all stakeholders, including eliminating boring, ineffective ads, grappling with the automation myth, embracing the data privacy age, and maintaining ethical AI practices. 

So, as we enter the roaring ’20s, how can marketers prepare to tackle all of these challenges? By actively listening and thoughtfully reacting. 

Bringing Humanity Back Into Marketing

The average consumer sees 10 times more ads today than they did back in the 1970s — upwards of 5,000 per day. This message overload often leads to a poor customer experience rife with monotonous, nearly identical ads that lack personality and are highly forgettable. To overcome this “sea of sameness,” marketers no longer simply need to offer the best experience in their category — they must compete with every marketing experience a consumer has ever had. I feel that marketers are failing.

Brands and marketers that don’t take the time to understand their consumers are drowning in the sea of sameness, but that doesn’t mean that better experiences are impossible, particularly when big data is involved. So how can marketers stand out and elevate consumer experiences? By going back to basics and fully getting to know their consumers through a combination of consumer data and human instinct.

When a brand knows what a consumer wants and needs at any given point and meets those desires in a convenient and interesting way, consumers will continue to come back because they feel understood and valued. Marketers can get to know their shoppers on a deeper level by sharing insights with the sales team, hosting “gut-storming” sessions to discuss what will drive loyalty and, finally, following the three-step model that we utilize at Acoustic: 1. Personalization: learn about the customer; 2. Recommendation: tell the customer how you can help them; 3. Continuity: analyze how this interaction can inform all future interactions.

The Automation Myth

Robots are not coming for your marketing jobs, just making them easier. 

At Acoustic, we see every day how AI liberates marketers from routine tasks, freeing them to become more creative, more strategic and even…more human. In 2020, marketers will invest more of this newfound time into their clients and own professional development, ultimately generating better results.

Despite the use of AI in organizations, human interaction and collaboration is still essential. I believe there is a continued need for the CMO – a perspective that has been hotly debated over the last year.

I do think the legacy CMO title is evolving, however. Today’s CMO is responsible for so much more than they were at the beginning of the decade, including traditional brand building, interpreting data, and generating revenue – all of which need to be executed strategically while working across numerous departments to share knowledge, collaborate, and make the experience seamless for end consumers. Additionally, CMOs will now be responsible for weighing societal issues around trust and privacy as consumers reevaluate their right to privacy.

2020 is the Year of Data Privacy

Most of us have no idea where our data lives, who has it, or how they’re using it for their personal benefit. Though in their beginning stages, regional regulations such as the GDPR and CCPA mark a fundamental shift that will impact all organizations over the next decade, where marketers need to realize that this new focus is not a passing trend. 

Organizations must avoid a wait-and-see approach and realize that all it takes is to violate the privacy of one individual to lose the trust of them all. One of the best ways to prepare for this and future privacy laws is by organizing data into centralized locations. Under the CCPA, companies must immediately stop selling consumer data upon request, but few companies keep all their data in one place, which is problematic. In addition, companies should consider adopting the new regulations now and communicate internally and externally about how these changes affect overall company practices as opposed to searching for loopholes.

The best marketers will win trust by being patient, transparent, and clear that privacy is top of mind, instead of having to win back trust that has already been lost. Companies should begin goal setting as it relates to privacy, meeting to determine how to ingrain a commitment to privacy in their core mission and value proposition. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

Combating and adapting to these challenges will mean re-evaluating how we think about the consumer journey, how we think about our readiness to sacrifice trust for the sake of a few additional data points, and how we think about the role technology will continue to play in marketing and in our lives in 2020 and beyond. 

On the brink of 2020, I encourage all marketers to ask themselves: “Am I doing the best marketing I can do and respecting the needs and wants of my customers?” If the answer is yes, then the future looks bright.  

Norman Guadagno is Chief Marketing Officer at Acoustic.